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Draw puts an end to Bradford Salem's slim promotion hopes
West Leeds 16, Bradford Salem 16
Any slim hopes Bradford Salem had of gaining promotion from SSE Yorkshire Division Two were effectively ended as they were held to a draw by West Leeds at Blue Hill Lane.
In near-perfect conditions, the defences of both sides stood firm in the opening exchanges, but, after the normally reliable Dale Breakwell had missed an early penalty for the home side, full back Danny Belcher drew first blood for Salem with a well-struck penalty from 30 metres to give the visitors a 3-0 lead.
With the whistle of Central Yorkshire referee Tom Doing dominating proceedings in the opening quarter, Breakwell brought the scores level at 3-3 with his first successful penalty, only for Belcher to reply with his second to restore Salem's three-point advantage.
At that stage, Salem seemed to have the upper hand, with their backs looking increasingly dangerous in attack.
West Leeds then lost former Salem hooker Sean Fields to the sin-bin for a technical offence, and, while the home side was reduced to 14 men, Salem began to pile on the pressure.
Then, after centre Connor Malarkey had been held up over the line, some good recycling allowed fly half Andy Robinson to crash over from close range to put the visitors 11-3 ahead.
However, West Leeds responded positively and, after Breakwell had reduced the arrears to 11-6 with his second successful penalty, the home side took the lead for the first time when a half-break and smart offload from full-back Phil Thompson sent inside centre Tom Jackson scampering over for a fine try improved by Breakwell to give the Leeds side a 13-11 advantage at the break.
In the second half, neither side looked like scoring as well-organised defensive lines held sway.
However, with 15 minutes to go, although Breakwell’s third successful penalty put West Leeds into a commanding position at 16-11, they were again reduced to 14 men when their second-rower failed to heed the warnings of the referee and was sent to the bin.
Salem, for the second time, took full advantage of this handicap and, after a spell of pressure in their opponents' 22, a pin-point grubber kick from Robinson was collected by replacement winger Carl Walker, who dived over in the corner to level the scores at 16-16.
Although Belcher was unable to land the difficult touchline conversion which would have almost certainly given Salem victory, West Leeds were reduced to 13 men after Fields received a second yellow card.
Unfortunately, this time Salem were unable to exploit their advantage and some tenacious counter-rucking allowed West Leeds to cling on in the final stages and hold out for the draw, which, on reflection, both sides agreed was a fair result.
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